For over 30 years, Hansi Kürsch has fronted German power metal band Blind Guardian, who have enthralled audiences with their epic sound, fantasy-inspired lyrics, and his majestic vocals. Recently, Kürsch and his bandmate, guitarist Andre Olbrich, collaborated with the Prague Filmharmonic Orchestra and Choir to create the Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra and record their new album Legacy of the Dark Lands. Beyond that, Kürsch's power metal project Demons & Wizards, a longtime collaboration with Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer, toured America for the first time last summer and finally have a third studio album due out this February. So when he actually has free time, what does Hansi do for fun? For episode 10 of Side Jams, we chatted via Skype to discuss his obsession with collecting 7” vinyl singles to play on his jukebox, along with his love for movies and books. It was relaxed yet lively chat about artforms that we both appreciate.
As the frontman for Dream Theater, James LaBrie is the distinct voice for one of the most influential bands in progressive rock and metal history. The twice Grammy Award-nominated quintet continue to push their own musical and visual boundaries with their albums and tours, including their current international trek in support of their 14th studio opus Distance Over Time. Beyond his globe-trotting day job, LaBrie loves to go camping and boating. I called James via Skype during Dream Theater's recent tour stop in San Antonio to talk about his love for the great outdoors. He shared some colorful stories, including the time he spent a week camping with his wife on a remote island with no way off, as well as what happens when raccoons gang up on a family dog. Our chat also moved into other territory, including skiing, his love for reading, and on a larger scale, the state of our planet. (Photo credit: Mark Maryanovich.)
A singer who paved the way for the Atlanta hardcore scene when he was a teen, William DuVall ascended to becoming the frontman for Seattle hard rock icons Alice In Chains and the side project Giraffe Tongue Orchestra. Beyond music, he enjoys reading biographies and books about history, a subject for which he has a great interest. Even on the road he still takes real books with him as opposed to the digital kind, a concept that many readers can totally appreciate. I spoke with William in a conference room at the offices of Cheddar TV in New York City, where he was promoting his superlative first solo album One Alone, and our discussion extended from books into early 20th Century films to his childhood education. This last part is where he became most passionate as he told the story of how he escaped the failing public school system in Atlanta to attend a private institution that took him on free of charge because of his strong desire to go there. That moment is one of my favorites so far in the Side Jams series. (Photo credit: Johnny Buzzerio.)
Guitar maestro Chris Caffery is known for playing with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, Spirits Of Fire, and on his solo albums. He is also involved with three outside enterprises. For nearly a decade, he has been a partner in the hot sauce company High River Sauces. He also sells art and jewelry that he makes from sea glass. And his stuffed animal mascot Wilbur The Metalphant is a social media celebrity that has spawned a line of 300 different items -- clothing, clocks, glasses, school supplies, and more. Many of the proceeds from these latter two endeavors go to children's cancer and elephant sanctuary charities. I called Chris at his home in Orange County, New York via Skype for our podcast, and he displayed as much passion and enthusiasm for these endeavors as he does for his music. All of these pursuits bring him joy.
As lead guitarist and co-founding member of Uriah Heep, the ever-jovial Mick Box has been a driving force behind the British rock icons for nearly 50 years. Their latest album Living The Dream is a strong studio release with memorable tunes and insightful lyrics. Outside of music, Mick is a big fan of British football – or, as we call it in America, soccer – and since childhood, he has rooted for the team Tottenham Hotspur. We met prior to the band's show at The Paramount in Huntington, New York to talk about his love for the sport, which also lead us to discussing American football as well as other places Mick has lived outside of England. (Photo credit: Richard Stow.)
Metal shrieker Dani Filth has traveled the globe for a quarter-century spreading the gothic black metal gospel of his band Cradle of Filth. The British group's latest album, Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness Of Decay, is their best in a decade. On top of the unusual gifts bequeathed to him by devout fans, everything from homemade dolls to large animal skulls, Dani loves to collect toys, paintings, and antiques. Backstage at The Paramount in Huntington, New York, we discuss our mutual love of collecting and the fascinating finds he has amassed throughout his life. He also reveals how he was quietly outbid by a major Britpop figure for a "hideous" piece of pop art he discovered at random in a British antiques store. (Photo credit: Artūrs Bērziņš.)
Ash Costello and her New Years Day bandmates Austin Ingerman, Nikki Misery, and Frankie Sil mine a dark, heavy sound that has embraced a pop-metal approach on their solid new album Unbreakable. For this episode, we speak about their mutual love for horror movies as well as her advocacy for animal rescue. Conducted at the offices of RED Music in NYC, our conversation stretches from the singer's intense childhood ("I was too dark, too young") to her leg tattoos, their spooky band adventures, thoughts on a group horror film, her stance against animal breeding, and how she adopted her pets. (Photo credit: Hristo Shindov.)
Guitarist Alex Skolnick is known for his musical prowess in both heavy metal (Testament, Metal Allegiance) and jazz (The Alex Skolnick Trio). He also loves books, so I thought it would be fitting to meet him at the Strand Book Store in NYC to discuss all things literary. We wander the stacks, from fiction to pulp fiction to rare books, to discuss his favorite authors, titles, how he reads and even where. Our chat spans the gamut from the obscure to the popular, and we discover some great finds in the process. (Photo credit: Evelyn Steiweg.)
French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre has toured the globe, sold an estimated 80 million albums, and holds the Guinness Book record for largest outdoor concert attendance (3.5 million people). He's also a down-to-earth person who loves painting, sci-fi, and movies. In this episode, we discuss those Side Jams and how they relate to his career. He and I also explore how artists engage the world, from our ever escalating aspirations to keeping up with the constant barrage of new releases. This interview was conducted in the rooftop bar of the Knickerbocker Hotel in NYC. (Photo credit: Greg Rybczynski.)
Welcome to the debut of "Side Jams"! Joining me for this inaugural episode is Roger Craig Smith. You've heard this talented voice actor play many signature roles in animated shows, films, and video games over the years -- Batman, Captain America, Sonic the Hedgehog, Kylo Ren, and many, many more. When he's not cavorting with the voices inside his head, the L.A.-based actor loves to gaze at the stars, particularly from a place he has in the Tehachapi Mountains of Southern California. Here, he discusses his passion for astronomy, rocketry, and space travel, delving into the high-tech innovations that have enhanced his stargazing experience, along with sharing his views on NASA, Elon Musk, and more.